4 Responses To A Failed Adoption

And How To Find Hope.

A failed adoption hurts as much as a miscarriage. It’s painful, embarrassing, frustrating and defeating! When an adoption falls through and all of the plans you made diminish like dust in the wind, where do you go? What do you do? How will you ever find hope in the midst of tragedy?


We were ecstatic when the call came in. The adoption agency we were working with had matched us with a birth mom and the outlook was very good. We were even invited to meet her, along with one of the agency’s social workers, at a local restaurant for lunch. We were nervous, but, we accepted.

In short, our time with her was beyond what we could have imagined or dreamed. We fell in love with her and she walked away from us feeling confident and ready to proceed. That was February. In early April, just a week before the baby was due, she changed her mind and disappeared, leaving us with nothing. If the plans we had made, and the dreams we were dreaming, were a building built with precision and ingenuity, we were watching it crumble floor by floor, right before our eyes, and we were devastated.

The adoption process brings with it the risk of failure. As much as I hate it, and wish I could make it not so, it’s the honest truth. Your birth mother may change her mind, even at the last second. The country you’re adopting from may close their gates and forbid adoptions at the drop of a hat. The child you’ve loved through trauma and pain, and planned to adopt once parental rights were terminated in foster care, may be swooped away and placed with an aunt in another state!

We’ve felt the crushing blow of this and we have many friends who have too. We’ve asked ourselves why? We’ve stood alone in anger and frustration, shaken our fists at the heavens and demanded an answer. We’ve sat with, and grieved with, families who have been rendered helpless by a birth mother’s change of heart, a judge’s ruling, or a country’s closure at the last second. Here’s what we’ve learned to do…

  1. Grieve.You’ve lost something. And that “something” was real. This was your child, your dream, your future. Never let anyone downplay a failed adoption because it wasn’t a biological child. Miscarriages are devastating, no question. We’ve dealt with that too. But the same loss, the same emotion, and the same pain exists with failed adoptions. It’s okay to grieve. It’s okay to feel the loss. And, it’s okay to go through this for a while if need be.
  2. Wait. Wait before you immediately jump back into the adoption process. I really can’t tell you how long you should wait, because every situation is different. But, you need to give yourself some time to heal. You never want adoption to be driven by a deep loss, like a failed adoption. The time you wait should be a time for processing, searching, healing, and restoration.
  3. Lean. Find someone you can lean on through dark days. You want this person to be someone who gets it and won’t try to fix things with clever sayings or Bible verses. One of the healthiest things you can do through the adoption process, but especially if things fall apart, is find a support system. These are people who know what you’re going through as a pre-adoptive or adoptive parent. Stay away from people who don’t have a healthy understanding of adoption, or do not get why you’re doing it. Trust the folks who are in the same trench, dreaming the same dreams, or perhaps have felt the same loss as you have.
  4. Hope. When the time is right, after you’ve grieved for a while or waited for some time, find hope again. Why? Because there is hope. The failed adoption is not your last hope, nor is it your last chance. Trust me. We have walked through this and we found hope. Our family is a story of hope. While we grieved the loss of the adoptions that fell through, we couldn’t imagine, nor picture, our family any different or any better. God knew exactly what He was doing when He brought the children we are raising, into our home.

A story unfolding.

I’ve often told foster and adoptive parents that they have no idea what story their family will tell the world. I believe this with all of my heart because I believe in foster care and adoption. There were times we almost gave up, ended our license, and threw in the towel. I’m glad we didn’t. We would’ve missed out on some amazing blessings.

On that fateful April day, when the agency called to tell us our birth mother had changed her mind, we were devastated. We almost quit on the spot. All we could see was desperation and loss. After all, in our finite minds, we usually can only see our immediate surroundings, especially in tragedy. What we didn’t realize, however, was that just north of where we lived a little boy had been born just 2 weeks before everything fell apart on us.

One year later, we picked him up from his current foster home and brought him home. He would become our forever son in the years that followed. In the middle of our failed adoption, another, much bigger story was unfolding. We couldn’t see it at the time! Today, 7 years later, I couldn’t imagine life without my son. I share this for one reason: You have no idea what your family’s story will be a year from now, 2 years from now, or 5 years from now. Hang on. Wait. Find hope!

Question: Have you ever been through a failed adoption? Share your story with us. You can leave a comment by clicking here.


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  • Pingback: 4 Responses To A Failed Adoption And How To Find Hope, by Mike Berry | The Forever Years()

  • Powerful and brilliant. Love the way you guys start off by admitting that grief is normal and something anyone who experiences a failed adoption will likely go through.

    • Thanks Brad! It’s a tough road to travel but one filled with hope and a future.

  • LS Haake

    Yes, from the other end of the spectrum and through the eyes and emotions of a fit & presumed birthfather. He never consented to an adoption and this was known by the PAP before his child was even born. A contested adoption followed, appellate courts became involved, and eventually the (unsuccessful) adoption petition was finally dismissed with prejudice. The time frame? FIVE YEARS and counting. Tip for adopters: DO NOT enter into a contested private pre-adoptive placement; and DO NOT try to force the termination of a biofather’s parental rights. You will most likely have lots of explaining to do to the child sooner rather than later. And please acknowledge the unimaginable grief that the natural father experiences when his child is intentionally withheld from him during the majority of the years-long litigation.

  • Scott Richardson

    Great advice! We went through a failed adoption last year. We had a mother who (we think) never planned on adopting and backed out about a week before the baby was due. We did exactly what you suggested and kept thinking that maybe this wasn’t the child planned for us.

    We were blessed enough about 2 months later to get a call for a baby girl who had already been born. This girl is such a blessing to us and is now 14 months old. We feel that maybe there was something with that other child and God wanted us to have this baby girl.

    To anyone who goes through this, just remember that there is always a reason and something better is waiting.

  • Jessica Skyles

    My husband and I are still in the grieving process. It has been a year and two months since our three children (sibling group) were removed from our home 3 days before Christmas.
    I am a social worker who works with children with behavioral issues in the classroom. Whether we want to admit it or not; our personal lives weave into our work day. Mine just happens to be working with kids in similar situations as my three children. Ironic.
    It is still hard getting thru days like Christmas, Halloween,Thanksgiving and their birthdays, but as a whole the healing process is happening. Day by day.
    Our adoption story is over. My husband and I both agree to that fact. We put in a decade long fight. I personally do not ever want to feel that kind of pain again. I congratulate others who keep getting themselves up and dusting themselves off. Giving up this battle was hard, but I have to know when enough is enough. Something inside me just said, “Stop! It’s over. Start new life chapter and find a way to fill that void”.
    For countless months I have been trying to figure out who I am. I am no longer a parent or striving to become a parent….so who am I now. Ten years this was who I was. It defined me.
    You lose a piece of yourself when dealing with a failed adoption. It’s as if they my kids took a part of my heart with them when they walked out my front door. No updates. Nothing. I have to walk away from something I have been chasing for a decade.
    My friend gave a solid piece of advice (not silly sayings like God has a plan for you or it’s for the best which I have heard a million times). She said, “Where is that girl who fights for what she wants out of life?” “She is still there; she is severely wounded, but there.” “Let your children be your inspiration.” “Instead of changing just three kids’ lives; now you can be the change in thousands of kids’ lives.” She was right. I had to get out of the emotional rut I was in. I took on a new way of thinking instead of letting this awful situation get the best of me. My new motto is “make lemonade out of the crappiest lemons”. I vowed to let my three beautiful children be my beacon/inspiration in life. This is how I am emotionally dealing with my loss instead of shoving down the feelings and putting on a brave smile for the world. Be raw, be real and shape it into something positive.
    Thank you for your blog. Great advice and just know it helped me through a hard time in my life. It is nice to know that I am not alone. Group therapy isn’t my thing, but reading about others like me seems to be giving me a sense of peace.

  • Kristin Abby Lane

    I want to start by saying that we have been pregnant 6 times, 2 were spontaneous miscarriages, 1 was a blighted ovum, 1 was an ectopic that required the tube removed two weeks later. The last was a trisomy 16 where we saw the heartbeat for weeks and then nothing. These we alot more tramatic then they sound wish it was as easy as typing the words. This was in the span of 3 years, and during that time my husband was deployed and I was pregnant for 8 months with my son. We were blessed with our son who is now 8 and we were told that it was a miracle that he made it. I know what you’re thinking why is she writing this on here that is for a different blog. We have been through fertility treatments and have not been able to concieve since 2010. We looked at adoption before but know that we could not afford it. We have looked into foster care but because of my husband and my job that would not the best choice for our family. (I grew up in a fostering family and have 3 siblings that were adopted from foster care.) We are not opposed to a child from foster care but we were cautioned not to adopt one that is older than our son. In January we received a phone call from a family member and aunt her daughter (our cousin) had gotten pregnant for the second time (older child is 5 she had him at 15) she is 20 and was on drugs. They asked us to adopt her baby due this may. We of course said yes, kept in touch talked about the situation and how everything would work. Contacted lawyers and adoption agency because it was out of state and we needed a home study. We were looking at a 10,000 adoption with very little time to raise the money. My mom made a go fund me page, family and friends wanted to help. Even though we were no where close to the money we needed we had hope but did not get anything ready in regards to a room and things. With the exception of a few outfits and a bag of clothes from a friend. We were trying to prepare for the worse and Hope for the best. The baby came early is was not due for 17 more days. We kept asking are you sure this is what you want. I got on the first flight out (same with my mom to help take care of our son) the baby was born before I even left the state. they sent pictures and we rejoiced together. It took 3 flights to get there I woke us at 2am there time after talking to them till midnight. My flight took off at 5am my time (only 1 hour difference). By the time I go to chicago I figured that was enough time for them to sleep in and I sent a text message per my husbands request. Is everything ok and are we prepared for everything that is to come. I received a message that said well she fell in love last night. my bag was already in route to MO so I had to go. They called before I got on the plane and all she said was I dont know what to say. when I get there we went straight to the hospital and I held the baby she was beautiful and perfect. I asked what we were going to do because of taking off work I needed to get everything moving in either direction. This is my husbands cousin said I know she will have a better life with you guys. We waited for what seemed like forever for the social worker. The aunt and I were asked to step out and when we came back in she told me that she wanted to try to raise the baby herself. I said I have to make phone calls and walked out. I could not hold it in I called to get a flight back I called work, I called my husband and I called his family to figure out how I was going to get back to the airport. His aunt took me to the cracker barrel with my luggage where I waited until someone could pick me up. They fed me and I did not sleep his mom took me to the airport to fly back home. We waited till our son got home from school and explained to him that the mom changed her mind and I did not bring home a baby. He broke down in tears, which of course broke our hearts. I wrote a message to them on facebook explaining that we all needed time to heal and that I would block them so that they could celebrate the baby as it should be. I found out that she had already blocked me, my husband, and my mom with out even a blink of the eye. My husband and I took 1 day off work to get everything together. We just got finished writing the thank you cards and check to send everyone back their money in full. (Go fund me takes a percentage) and it cost us 3 last minute flights with only heartbreak to show for it. Hope for us doesnt feel possible. Tired of people asking how are you doing. Tired of seeing other people pregnant. Tired of the treatments, scheduling intercorse that has become a job at this point. Tired of morning my period every month. Tired of opening just to get crushed again and yes So tired of “but God has a plan for you” speeches. What makes it harder is that we would like to be foster parents but because I am a teacher and my husband is a police officer/ probation officer, I do not trust people. I personally feel guilty that we want another child because we are so lucky to have the one, but then a person cant help but dream. I dont believe that the grieving ever really goes away, all the trama just comes rushing back when the next possibility is crushed. Just like alot of others I have never known what it was like to be happy about getting pregnant.

  • Tiffany Setaro

    This is so real! We had a personal friendship with our birthmom who was five month pg. We already bought almost everything we needed for baby out of pure joy and excitement. Unfortunately, she/we had a miscarriage Saturday night. I am in disbelief and just do not want to even acknowledge this loss right now. I know this is the beginning stages of grief. However, there is no information on the web about this happening to other people. Seeing this article did make me feel not all alone.

    • Oh how sorry I am to read this!!! Please know you are in our thoughts tonight. Praying you have your people to help you get through this time.